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Inauguration 2005

Two 'important states' get their own inaugural balls

By wire services
Published January 20, 2005

Most Bush supporters who attend tonight's inaugural balls will have to hobnob with people from other states. Only two states get their own balls - you guessed it - Florida and Ohio.

Yes, the state that decided the 2000 election and the one that decided 2004 get exclusive balls at the Washington Convention Center.

"It certainly recognizes that Florida was - and will be again - one of the most important states," said Carole Jean Jordan, chairwoman of the Republican Party of Florida.

She said Gov. Jeb Bush requested the special treatment and the inaugural committee was happy to oblige. "I guess that's one of the perks of being the president's brother."

Florida Republicans sparkle at black-tie ball

U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, a Republican from Oviedo, got a call Monday, a mere 24 hours before the Republican Party of Florida's black-tie ball. Organizers wanted him to fill in as master of ceremonies. The jovial former speaker of the Florida House agreed.

"I guess the first, second and third choices fell through," said Feeney, laughing.

The Sequins and Stars Ball kicked off two days of Florida-sponsored events celebrating Bush's inauguration. A crowd of 600 dressed in tuxedos and sparkly floor-length gowns munched on duck and pine nut dumplings and seafood egg rolls. Among the guests were Florida Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher and former U.S. Senate candidates Bill McCollum and Larry Klayman.

Feeney introduced recipients of the first-ever W Awards, including former astronaut Buzz Aldrin; Cathy Gillespie, coordinator of the W Stands for Women Campaign; newly elected Sen. Mel Martinez; and country crooner Mark Chesnutt.

What did Chesnutt do to merit an award? He campaigned with President Bush in Texas.

For Harris, four years makes a big difference

Four years ago, then-Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris was mobbed by inaugural crowds in Washington for helping hand Bush his first presidential victory.

At this week's festivities, there were no mobs for Harris, now a congresswoman from Sarasota. No standing ovations. No lines of people clamoring for photographs.

At the Sequins and Stars Ball Tuesday night, one Republican staffer even asked to see her credential before letting her in.

Harris said people constantly ask if she's going to run for U.S. Senate in 2006. She said she would run one day - but didn't say when.

"It's a possibility," she said.

Couple rubs elbows with political stars

Manny and Susan Rose couldn't have been more pleased.

The Feather Sound couple were attending their first presidential inauguration and were amazed at the accessibility of their favorite political stars.

Rose, a radiologist who owns a chain of MRI centers around the Tampa Bay area, and his wife have long contributed to the GOP, but this was the first election in which they donated significant amounts of money, time and energy.

In return, the Republican Party of Florida invited them to the inauguration. They stayed at the Grand Hyatt with the rest of the delegation. They have good seats for today's swearing-in at the Capitol.

Wednesday morning, they attended the Republican Party of Florida's "Faces of Victory" breakfast and panel discussion. (Not to be confused with the "Proud to be an American" breakfast to be held this morning.)

"I'm impressed with the important VIP faces you see here," Rose said, motioning across the croissants to Gaston Cantens, a former Republican representative from Miami who was once in line to be speaker of the Florida House. "I spoke personally with Bill McCollum."

At the breakfast, which included a discussion of the president's 2004 victory and upcoming issues, they greeted Rep. Mark Foley of West Palm Beach and saw Joe Scarborough, the Florida congressman turned conservative TV commentator and author, who moderated the panel.

They met South Dakota Sen. John Thune, a Republican darling for unseating former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle ("He seemed so nice, so humble," Mrs. Rose said), as well as Katherine Harris (Mrs. Rose declared her "very bubbly").

At the Sequins and Stars Ball, they met newly elected Florida Sen. Mel Martinez. "We saw him on C-Span," Mrs. Rose said, "and then three hours later he showed up at the ball."

For Florida Republicans, her husband said, "these events are almost more important than the inauguration."

Scarborough bullish on Iraqi elections

Joe Scarborough clearly feels bullish about the recent elections in the United States. Now he's feeling bullish about the elections in Iraq.

Taking a shot at the dour assessment of the viability of the coming Iraqi elections, the conservative commentator and former Florida congressman told a crowd of fellow Florida Republicans Wednesday that he believes Iraqi voter turnout will hit 65 percent, eclipsing the turnout for the recent U.S. presidential election.

Scarborough was moderating an election panel when he made the prediction. His logic? Sixty percent of Iraqis are Shiite Muslims whose top religious leader has implored them to vote. Another 20 percent are Kurds who backed the U.S.-led invasion and who support the election.

Anti-American elements make up no more than 20 percent, he said.

Political analyst Charlie Cook, a panel member, looked at him incredulously. "Twenty bucks."

"I'll bet you 20 bucks right now," Scarborough said.

They shook.

Compiled by staff writers Anita Kumar, Wes Allison and Bill Adair.

[Last modified January 20, 2005, 00:13:15]

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